*OSCAR WINNER* WHIPLASH REVIEW

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The verdict is in. It may have won an Oscar BUT did it get a yes from the Mad Movie Ranter? There’s only one way to find out. Drum roll, please.

An intense psychological thriller + two stellar performances = one happy film goer.

One of the better ones. I have to say J.K. Simmons deserved that Oscar for Best Supporting Actor without a doubt. I originally banked my money on Edward Norton for Birdman. That was until I saw Whiplash.

So what’s it about? A promising young drummer (Miles Teller) enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor (J.K. Simmons) who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

Impressive work all round. The leads were superb and writer/director Damien Chazelle pens an impressive feature breaking away from his earlier efforts (The Last Exorcism Part II). He will certainly be one to watch in the future.

Teller (21 & Over/That Awkward Moment) proved he could actually act and act well. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to take him seriously after 21 and Over, That Awkward Moment and Divergent. BUT he was fantastic.

Ironically, however, he was always going to play second fiddle to Simmon’s Fletcher.

I have always rated Simmons as an actor and desperately craved for him to get a meatier role than the tidbits he was given. Bar Spiderman, of course.

And at last, we got one. J. Jonah Jameson, no more! I couldn’t take my eyes off him (Not like that. Behave and eugh!).

The opening sequence perfectly established both characters. Teller’s Andrew, an isolated loner intent on perfecting his craft, the drums. Constantly trying to be faster and better. Pushing himself and his body.

Enter Fletcher from the dark hallway. Slick and charming. Passionate for music. One bad note and he changes in an instant. Storming out into the dark abyss.

Thus starting a psychological battle for ambition and perfection and one of the better films I have seen this year.

Fletcher’s volatile behaviour keeps you on tenterhooks throughout the film.

Smooth and calming one second, demanding and violent the next.

The volatility was intense. In one scene, he throws a cymbal at Andrew’s head and slaps him over and over until he can identify the mistake he has made.

Relentless, dark BUT hypnotic. Some of Fletcher’s earlier put downs were quite comical. Nothing more than any teacher you got in an 80s comedy BUT it soon brews into something much more.

You constantly question why Andrew continues to take such savage treatment from such a deluded instructor?

BUT the more you see of his daily routine and his dinner dates with his dad (Paul Reiser), you soon realise that maybe Fletcher isn’t the only deluded player in the game.

It is a great examination piece on the lengths that people will go to achieve greatness.

By the end, you wonder who the real monster was. Is it Fletcher the volatile perfectionist? Or Andrew the self-isolated masochist who constantly pushed himself until his fingers literally bled?

It was great to see Paul Reiser (Mad About You) back in the mix. He played Teller’s father well but there wasn’t enough of him to be honest. But I think that’s kind of the point. Probing and providing some sort of explanation into Andrew’s psyche and behaviour.

Melissa Benoist (Glee) and Teller had good chemistry together and made their couple seem quite real. Normally, you get the awkward cheesy guff BUT it was played down and done quite well. I wanted more of that dynamic.

The drum solo sequences do go on a little bit BUT that is coming from someone who is not a jazz fan. The songs (when NOT interrupted by the foul mouthed Fletcher dispersing insults or instruments) were very good.

The pace dipped a little halfway through the film UNTIL an unexpected moment. NO SPOILERS! I didn’t see it coming and the finale. Just wow! Everything coming to an explosive end, metaphorically.

It was tense, nail biting and riveting. I came out of the screen NOT wailing, like Fletcher, at another film for “NOT BEING ON MY TIME!” but pleasantly surprised and rewarded.

This gets a 3.5/5 BUT I may change this to a 4.

I am very hard to please (Steady now). To get a 3.5 is pretty damn good for a fellow art lover desperately seeking perfection.

If you want a suspenseful psychological thriller with two brilliant and extremely underrated actors, then I can’t think of many other titles. Invest.

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WHAT IF REVIEW

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What if . . . ‘Arry Potter made a rom com about falling in love with a girl who is with somebody else?

A surprisingly watchable and entertaining one, that’s what.

Daniel Radcliffe makes another impressive screen outing breaking away from those Hogwarts halls in this indie rom com.

Now it’s hardly original. The obvious clichés are all there.

The inevitable yearning, the awkward glances, that typical teen debate about whether men and women can be just friends without the sexual ambiguities hanging around them like a foul smell. The inevitable ending.

However, at it’s heart is also a well acted, if slightly corny, rom com that is able to make you laugh and care for the clueless couple.

A feat in itself. You can’t help but watch so many of these regurgitated predictable romantic comedies and not actually care about the protagonists.

Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick) have great chemistry and manage to apply it to some likeable and well written characters.

I think it really is down to your temperament of rom-coms. Normally I don’t have one.

So what’s it about? Wallace (Radcliffe), who is burned out from a string of failed relationships, forms an instant bond with Chantry (Kazan), who lives with her longtime boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall).

Together, they puzzle out what it means if your best friend is also the love of your life (Bleurgh)

I went in ready to hate this. The trailers made it all seem so corny and schmaltzy BUT that only really happened in the final act.

The first half was an easygoing insight into the couple’s brewing relationship that moved along at a steady enough pace.

It just focused on the two characters BUT the chemistry and witty dialogue kept it all on par.

There is very little breaking apart from them except for the odd moment with the supporting characters to question their intentions.

The supporting cast weren’t a bad selection.

Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) was the main scene stealer as Wallace’s promiscuous college room mate, Allan. His odd outlook on life and bizarre sex advice was hilarious.

Especially his celebratory quip after having sex. That line will be quoted for months to come (Well for me anyway).

Rafe Spall (Prometheus) played the suspicious boyfriend with an impeccable accent. His character made for some awkward encounters as well as a humourous kitchen accident.

Mackenzie Davis (That Awkward Moment) didn’t do too badly as Allan’s partner. Her brash forwardness made for some funny moments.

However, I couldn’t help but feel that when she was teamed up with Driver; it all got a little OTT and hit and miss for me. The kind of OTT stuff I was expecting from the get go.

Megan Park’s (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) introduction as the temptress spiced things up, desperate for a rebound lay and targeting the “available” Wallace.

Predictable like I said BUT it’s a story we’ve either experienced or know somebody who has.

I wish more was made out of the subplot with Wallace’s sister (Jemima Rooper – Hex/Kinky Boots) and nephew (Lucius Hoyos).

It was a missed opportunity that could have added a little more depth to Wallace’s character rather than having him brood on a roof for chunks of the movie.

The final act in which the pair were missing each other as they travelled to different destinations was unnecessary and hammed up what was a normal and (generally) more realistic love story.

It may have been predictable BUT I went in expecting the worst and was relieved. It was entertaining, got the odd laugh and thanks to two talented actors, I wasn’t too bothered.

One of the better ones anyway.

3/5

POMPEII REVIEW

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Pompeii – Perrrleaaaaseee.

Another big, dumb, needless blockbuster on a piece of history. However, that being said, the town has become a major site for tourism so . . . Moving on.

BUT despite it’s cliche-ridden by the numbers plot line and generic characters; the visual effects were outstanding, the 3D a worthy investment and I was kept entertained for the next 105 minutes.

Let’s be honest, Paul W S Anderson’s past efforts have hardly been groundbreaking (The Resident Evil franchise, Alien Versus Predator, The Three Musketeers). Pompeii is certainly one of his most ambitious efforts. Visual imagery, special effects and action have always been his forte but he would always spoil it with naff characters, ridiculous plot holes and boring predictable story lines.

Pompeii, like it’s aftermath, is a bit of a mess BUT a watchable one.

Arise, Jon Snow (no, not the Channel 4 news anchor) I mean – Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), an ever rising star. Harington proves yet again to be a strong, likeable lead. Granted, his character is pretty much Jon Snow in gladiator mode but it still works. He has enough charisma and sultry sulking to keep everybody happy. And if his body was really that toned, then I need to hit the gym.

Pompeii is pretty much about a volcano. You don’t say? A slave-turned-gladiator finds himself in a race against time to save his true love, who has been betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. BUT as Mount Vesuvius erupts, he must fight to save his beloved as Pompeii crumbles around him. O-err!

The opening zips along quite well even if it skimmed through the predictable cliched Gladiator/Spartacus/Conan plot lines. BUT it quickly set up who was who and got the ball rolling. Harington’s back story was lazy. Northern Britannia? Really? Londinium? (Oh wait. That was actually called that).

The 3D doesn’t jump out the screen at you but it certainly makes everything so much more prominent. The trees and houses really force their presence on the screen. We are soon thrown into the picturesque Pompeii where Milo (Harington) falls for the (already spoken for) Cassia (Emily Browning – Sucker Punch/The Host).

Browning and Harington convey enough chemistry to make the laughable corniness of their inevitable romance watchable. The whole horse thing in order for them to meet was unbelievably cheesy. Jon Snow. Gladiator and part time horse whisperer. Brilliant.

I must commend the supporting cast for managing to make such stocky characters memorable. I can’t believe that Jack Bauer – I mean Kiefer Sutherland was in this as Corvus. He has enough panto menace to make a vicious villain. BUT his mish-mesh accent had me in stitches. Fair play to Jack for giving it a crack though. This was worth seeing alone for the Bauer blade off with Jon Snow. A nerdgasm for any TV addict.

Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje was very good as Atticus; a retiring gladiator on the verge of winning his freedom. He works well with Harington and they make a decent duo. To be honest for all the cheesiness, you do end up rooting for the chaps.

Jared Harris (Mad Men) and Carrie Anne Moss (The Matrix franchise) were wasted in this. They do their best to portray the conflicted parents torn between honouring their civic duty and protecting their daughter from the lechy Corvus. For the Matrix fans, poor Trinity suffers a demise that may look a little too familiar. Yes, really. Had me in stitches too.

The lovely Jessica Lucas (That Awkward Moment/Melrose Place) tragically played a stocky sidekick. Shame. BUT cudos to Sasha Roiz (Grimm) who managed to provide a manic minion to Sutherland’s sinister senator.

The problem for me is that when you’ve had films like Gladiator and Spartacus (not to mention the excellent TV series), you can’t help but feel that there isn’t much else to offer in plot. It’s all been done before. If you love those sort of films regardless and demand another, then here we are.

It’s action packed and once the vociferous volcano finally erupts. It was incredible to watch but my God, everything gets thrown out of the window that it was verging on parodical! People running around and getting bopped on the heads with flying rocks should have terrifying. Instead, it was bloody hilarious!

And what infuriated me was after this mad dash of a fierce finale, it ends so abruptly and flat that I could feel my temper rising like the lavary ooze of Vesuvius.

So . . . in conclusion, it’s not as bad as you think but certainly not that great either. If you go in with an open mind, you may come out pleasantly surprised but if you’re expecting a Gladiator, then go watch . . . Gladiator.

2.5/5

Also as a side note for the LOST fans when Mr Eko saw that black smoke coming out of Vesuvius. 😉 Yeah, you know.

THAT AWKWARD MOMENT REVIEW

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Awkward film altogether.

A talented cast do their best with the muddled material BUT it misses the mark completely. Corny, cheesy, predictable. A missed opportunity.

Efron plays the charismatic lead well as the typical commitment phobe and womaniser Jason. He quickly sums up the plot while freezing his backside off on a bench in the middle of Central Park. Some waffle about “So moment”. What? You know that so moment. So . . . where is this relationship going? Is it time to shape up or ship out? Move forward or move on. Cue a flashback and a mediocre movie. 

Miles Teller (Whiplash) played the oblivious Daniel with aplomb. Providing a much needed comic relief. We join the pair as they enjoy sleeping around with their “roster” of women. While Michael B. Jordan’s Mikey, a depressed 20-something married man has just discovered that his wife (Jessica Lucas – Pompeii) has been cheating on him. The pair attempt to cheer him up BUT instead fall for two ladies instead. After promising to their old pal that they would stay single with him. Meh.

The first encounter between Jason and Ellie (Imogen Poots – Need For Speed) was nauseating. However, the pair’s chemistry clicked and made the predictable hook up spiel a lot more watchable. Poots delivered a very convincing American accent. There was even some fun to be had. An awkward surprise party date was cringe-inducing BUT hilarious.

The film desperately tried to convey the lad culture in which blokes don’t share feelings. If we’re down, we drink. If we’re happy, we drink. We have to sleep around and only think with our d – muscles. The camaraderie between the three actors was really good and there was some genuine banter. Efron and Teller worked well together BUT some of the gags went on a bit. And Inbetweeners, they ain’t. Talking about cock spas and stuff like that just fell flat. The fake tan incident with Mikey was funny. Infuriatingly, the better one liners from that scene were only in the heavily flogged trailers.

The film struggled to set a tone. In one moment, it was a dirty teen sex comedy. The next, a nauseating rom com. Michael B. Jordan’s (Creed) character Mikey had the better story line BUT there was barely any of it. Despite a solid performance, he was pushed to the background. Shame. Instead, we were subjected to Efron’s subplot that had been done to death. Jordan’s story line commented on the struggles of young couples marrying early. More could have made out of that. A little too much of the Teller and Efron show.  

It wasn’t really until the hour marker that the drama or humour kicked off. Any real issues or noteworthy moments were soon ruined with corny schmaltz or a dirty joke. I mean the banter worked for a good portion of the film. The lads’ bickering about a new girlfriend crashing the “bachelor pad” was an argument I’ve experienced too many a time. Efron and Teller’s gay date debate in a sex shop as they were messing about with vibrators was juvenile BUT funny.

This was hardly a lad’s rom com as promoted. It tried to be different by focusing from that angle. BUT it never really got going. It was watchable, delivered the odd laugh BUT just when it seemed to pick up and bring some real issues to the fold, it buried them quick and went for an OTT and cheesy finale. Disappointing.

2/5